How Harness Racing Victoria Grew Viewership 52% in 6 Months

Across Victoria, Australia, 28 different clubs bring fans the fast-paced action sport of harness racing. Overseeing all of this is Harness Racing Victoria, which realized the sport was just scratching the surface of its amazing potential to attract and engage audiences. By partnering with Brightcove, the organization is using video to create new excitement, build more organizational efficiencies, and above all transform the way this sport is enjoyed by a growing base of eager fans.

Harness Racing was Falling Behind

Despite all the fun and intensity associated with harness racing, its popularity has struggled across the world--not just in Australia. Why? The aging demographic is one big reason. Generally targeted to an older audience, the sport was not reaching younger cohorts in a meaningful way. This presented a big problem: if the fan base kept shrinking, that would have a serious ripple effect: There’d be less fans, which would mean less demand for racing, less demand for racing professionals, and even less demand for horses themselves. This could cause the entire harness racing experience to suffer with no way to remain relevant in a competitive racing wagering landscape.

But the communications and technology teams at Harness Racing Victoria refused to accept this status quo, and instead set in motion a plan to seize three big opportunities:

  1. Leverage the vast potential and popularity in wagering.
  2. Create higher visibility and engagement through a digital viewing experience.
  3. Connect with the sweet spot of younger demographics--the 18-35 year olds.

How could they achieve all of that? One word: video. “There was a real appetite for video content,” said Cody Winnell, Media and Communications General Manager for Harness Racing Victoria. “It showed us that we could actually change the way that harness racing is presented in Australia.”

Video Delivers a More Engaging Fan Experience

In 2018, Harness Racing Victoria launched TrotsVision, a streaming platform dedicated to harness racing. Initially set up as an “automated service” which limited the channel’s storytelling potential, the fuse had been lit and Harness Racing Victoria was on its way. Then Brightcove entered the picture, presenting Harness Racing Victoria with a robust platform that met every need with Brightcove Cloud Playout, Live, and Video Cloud.

For fans, the relaunched TrotsVision delivered a whole new experience. Viewers could now enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the track, getting an inside view at all the action between races. What’s more, TrotsVision opened up a new perspective on the harness drivers, showing the “face behind the helmet” as the personalities of these colorful and witty drivers was allowed to shine through. The viewing experience would engage fans with versions of their favorite songs, have fun with famous movie and TV quotes, announce contests on social media, award prizes, and more.

TrotsVision became an always-on touchpoint for fans who wanted to experience the excitement of the sport beyond the race track. This digital extension was very attractive to younger audiences who also have higher expectations for on-demand viewing and entertainment from sport brands.

This improved experience helps drive substantial growth, according to Cody Winnell. “TrotsVision is growing the overall audience, bigger and bigger each month, and from that overall audience, some people will come and go from the track. That's okay because the audience overall will continue to grow.”

Since partnering with Brightcove, TrotsVision has grown from 54,894 views in August 2021 to 83,292 views in January 2022. Furthermore, TrotsVision has helped Harness Racing Victoria grow its 18-35-year-old audience by 250%. That demographic is now outpacing all other age segments for growth, which is significant given Harness Racing Victoria’s overall audience grew by 76% over the same period.

Down the road, this audience growth can position TrotsVision as a revenue-driving hub that capitalizes on sports wagering and other monetization opportunities like advertising and sponsorships.

Harnessing Internal Efficiencies

In addition to increasing viewership and engaging a younger demographic, Brightcove’s technology also helped Harness Racing Victoria gain tremendous organizational efficiencies. “The further I got into Brightcove, I realized that this was the one,” said Darren Skillen, Digital Developer at Harness Racing Victoria. “Brightcove gave us that solution where we could have everything in one place.”

That efficiency was clear with TrotsVision, which is powered by an internal video library that can be searched by horse or driver. This allows race officials--known as “stewards”--to evaluate individual races. This was a major change, because before this video library came along, the stewards would actually have to go into the office, pull something out of the archive, load it up, view it and then put it back. Not anymore. They now have about 18 months of replays available digitally, at the click of a button.

What’s more, Brightcove’s technology made it possible to use an API and attach race information to each of the replays. With that ability, Harness Racing Victoria could now create an online gallery of replays with a custom search functionality where anyone could search for a horse or a driver or any other particular trait. For both staff and fans, this brand-new efficiency was a major leap forward.

An integrated solution even boosted the organization’s social media channels. Previously, to get a clip of the race out on social media, the team would have to download a race video, send it to an editing program, choose the in and out points, export it, and post it maybe 90 minutes later. But with the help of Brightcove’s technology, they can simply clip the content live, post it, and have a highlight of something that actually just happened. For content-hungry audiences, nothing compares to this fresh and relevant material.

Whether it’s a race for horses or a race for viewers, the stakes are always high. Brightcove is glad to partner with Harness Racing Victoria and looks forward to all the ways that video will continue to stay in the lead.

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